Trying to make sense of the Grace Poe Llamanzares case


How to save Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares from being disqualified as a presidential candidate in the May 2016 elections has prompted her most zealous, though not necessarily the most capable, supporters to circle their wagons around her. They are trying to put up a defense, although based on fallacious assumptions and spotty calculations, and organized outside the legal process taking place in the Commission on Elections.

Four petitions are seeking her disqualification or the cancellation of her certificate of candidacy on two constitutional grounds. First, she is not a natural-born Filipino, which means a citizen from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect her citizenship. Second, on the day of the 2016 election she will not have resided in the country for 10 years, as required by the Constitution.

The Comelec’s Second Division has already ruled on the petition by former GSIS legal counsel Estrella Elamparo, and ordered the cancellation of Mrs. Llamanzares’s CoC, based mainly on her insufficient residency. The First Division is set to rule on the three other petitions, beginning with my own petition, which is primarily anchored on her not being natural-born.

A curious mix of defenders
Now a former Supreme Court chief justice, a former dean of a school of government, and the immediate past chairman of the Commission on Elections have separately assailed the ruling of the Second Division in the press. The most surprising claim came from the former chief justice who said that every foundling is a natural-born citizen under international law, regardless of what the Constitution says. This is a complete misreading of the Constitution and international law.

Even more audacious is the theory advanced by former Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes, Jr., who said the Comelec had no jurisdiction over any of the candidates’ non-compliance with the Constitution on the issue of qualifications. Let the candidates run now, he said, and if there be any question about qualifications, let the matter be raised before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal later, should the candidate win.

A novel theory
It was a novel theory even for lawyers. It was not clear whether Brillantes, who lawyered for Fernando Poe, Jr., Grace Poe’s adoptive father, when he ran for president in 2004, could now practice election law after retiring recently as Comelec chair, and that he was now one of Mrs. Llamanzares’s lawyers. His statement, like that of former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban on the alleged natural-born status of all foundlings, merely recycled what lawyer George Erwin Garcia had said on Mrs. Llamanzares’s behalf at the First Division’s “clarificatory hearing” on Nov. 25.

So obvious was its absurdity that Chairman Andres Bautista could not help but rebuke his predecessor. He had to point out that the Comelec has primary jurisdiction over all electoral questions before the holding of elections; only when the controversy arises after the election do the electoral tribunals assume jurisdiction. Indeed, if the Comelec has no jurisdiction over Mrs. Llamanzares’s non-compliance with the requirements of the Constitution, then it can have no jurisdiction over any other candidate’s non-compliance with the same requirements.

Specifically, if the Comelec has no authority or power to make sure that each presidential candidate is natural-born, then it has no business making sure that each candidate is a registered voter, able to read and write, at least 40 years of age on the day of the election, and known to have resided in the country for 10 years on the day of the election.

Who will deal with the nuisance candidates?
This means the Comelec cannot declare anyone a “nuisance candidate,” not even the perennial candidates of the past, a Pascual Racuyal or a Lucio de Gala, both of happy memory. None of these “nuisance candidates” necessarily lack any of the qualifications enumerated in the Constitution: they are natural-born citizens, registered voters, able to read and write, not less than 40 years of age, and residents of the country all their lives. In fact, the late Lucio de Gala used to point out that he alone, among the candidates, had a doctor’s certificate saying he was “mentally sound” or at least “not mentally ill.” Not even President B. S. Aquino 3rd could make the same claim.

But they are called “nuisance candidates” because they lack any demonstrable capability to wage a credible nationwide campaign. Were we to accept the Brillantes theory, the Comelec would not have the power to declare anyone a “nuisance candidate” for any reason whatsoever. In the May election, we would have all of the 130 presidential candidates running.

This is not to say that Mrs. Llamanzares can no longer raise the issue of jurisdiction. Like anyone tossing in turbulent waters, she is free to grab at any straw to avoid drowning. But she will have to raise the issue not just yet, but later, if and when her case goes up to the Supreme Court, should the two Comelec divisions disqualify her together and the Comelec en banc confirms their decision. She apparently expects nothing less, for her camp has started accusing her natural-born presidential adversaries of trying to pressure the Comelec into having her irretrievably disqualified.

Who’s trying to pressure whom?
My own sources tell me that her private funders, who may already have spent over P300 million or so on highly questionable TV ads and manufactured surveys, according to conservative estimates, are the ones trying to buy favors from the Comelec and the Supreme Court, except that nobody seems to believe they could sell out on such an open-and-shut case and get away with it. The Constitution is so clear that it can never be legitimately interpreted in her favor, no matter what; no member of the Comelec or the Supreme Court may want to risk perpetual ignominy by selling out, even for several hundred million pesos. Whoever sells out may have to hang like Judas and be hounded all their lives, possibly even after they are gone.

What should Grace Poe try to save?
I would therefore reiterate my proposal to Mrs. Llamanzares: save your honor and your soul, and try to contribute to the integrity of the May 2016 elections by giving up your inordinate ambition, and stop your funders, who want to own you and the next government, from dictating your next move. Even if, by some quirk of fate, the truth and the Constitution are bastardized and you end up with a judgment in your favor declaring you as a “natural-born Filipino,” you cannot possibly want to become President of the Philippines, while sleeping with an American husband and being surrounded by American children. Unless, of course, you believe that our people believe sovereignty and national dignity mean nothing,

The Comelec’s real challenge
Likewise, for the Comelec, I would point out that the disqualification of Mrs. Llamanzares on undisputable constitutional grounds is a turning point for the institution. And I would reiterate my proposal that the constitutional body use it as an opportunity to refurbish its badly tarnished image while there is still time. Our people expect it. Two years after the May 13, 2013 senatorial elections, and less than six months before the May 9, 2016 elections, they await some credible signs that the constitutional body is eager to conduct clean, honest and credible elections, regardless of what the political administration may want it to do.

So far there are no such signs, but the Comelec may still be able to save the situation, if it wants to. Despite the highly reproachable conduct of the 2010 and 2013 elections, which produced so many de facto government officials, and despite the fact that Smartmatic-TIM has been exposed by the London-based KPMG auditing firm, one of the world’s top auditing firms, as a wholly-owned foreign subsidiary with no legal right to do business in the Philippines, it retains its stranglehold on our corrupted electoral system, and is poised to repeat in a few months its scandalous rigging of the past two elections.

Restore the PCOS security features
Certainly the odds are not in our favor, but there may still be time, limited though it may be—-so long as we do not waste it—- to restore all the safety and security features and accuracy mechanisms which the previous Comelec boards had removed, in violation of law, from the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, such as the Voter Verification System, to ensure a thorough screening of voters, the digital signatures, to authenticate the recording and transmittal of votes, etc.; to replace the corrupted motherboard, which is the primary component of the voting machine, but which can now be remotely activated by outside instrumentation; and allow all legitimate parties to review the source code, as certified by an independent body to have complied with all industry standards, rather than one that is of questionable origin and totally untested.

Making the revolution unnecessary
In the face of our people’s mounting distrust of our politicians and their undisguised efforts to dictate the results of the next election, if it is not weaned from Malacañang’s partisan clutches, the Comelec ought to be able to show our people that, despite its sorry misconduct during the Jose Melo and Brillantes chairmanships, it has not lost the capacity to act independently of the dominant partisan forces, and conduct an election that could make the growing demand for “revolution” unnecessary and out of sync.

Under Chairman Bautista, who will be long in office after President B. S. Aquino 3rd is gone, the Comelec could still, if it so desires, rediscover and reclaim its sovereign right and supreme duty to make our electoral democracy work. It is under no compulsion to join the Aquino regime as it fades into its inevitable dark night. Will it rise to the challenge?


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  1. Foundlings are protected by International Law

    In the DOJ Opinion of 1951 which a candidate relied upon, the International Law principle that foundlings acquire the nationality of the State where they may be found was applied (based on publish reports) to a foundling orphaned and presumably left by American parents during WWII because probably of his physical features.

    If we were to assume this to be correct, then the adoption of international law is akin to a domestic legislation enacted through the legislative branch.

    Such adoption would be a grant of citizenship in accordance with law. In our Constitution when citizenship is granted in accordance with law, it is called naturalized citizenship. It is not natural born citizenship because there was a need to invoke a foreign international law to perfect that kind of citizenship. Moreover, the natural born citizenship under the Philippines Constitution follows the jus sanguinis or blood relationship to a Filipino parent. Unfortunately for foundlings the parents are unknown.

    Thus, a foundling has a Philippine naturalized citizenship applying the adoption of international law but not natural born citizenship.

    Is that unfair? They have citizenship and all the rights except the right to run for the presidency. However, is the right to run for office guaranteed by international law? Aren’t we stretching the interpretation to favor the ambition of one candidate?

    As shown above, foundlings are protected and they have naturalized citiizenship.

    Also there maybe an exaggeration that millions of foundlings in the Philippines are affected. As stated by Manuel Roxas while framing the 1935 Constitution on citizenship, foundlings, according to Roxas, are just few and far in between.

    In the separate opinion of Sen. Bam Aquino in the SET decision – “From 1950 to 2014, the number of foundlings registered with Philippines Statistics Authority had a total of 4,482. ”

    Where are the millions affected?

    Constitution vs, International law which should prevail?

    Of course the Constitution.

    If an international law is adopted does it amend the Constitution?

    Of course not.

    If an international law granting citizenship is adopted can it be similar to a law enacted by the legislature?


    Does the Constitution allow a grant of citizenship in accordance with law?

    Yes, naturalized citizenship.

    Was there an instance where the Philippines granted citizenship by direct legislation without going through the usual naturalization process?

    Yes several times. One example is RA 5437 in 1968 the legislature granted Philippine citizenship to a minor adopted by Filipinos by direct legislation without undergoing naturalization process in the law. This is citizenship in accordance with law. Under the Constitution, this type of grant of citizenship in accordance with law can only be called naturalized citizenship. It cannot be called natural-born citizenship just because it did not undergo the usual naturalization process. Thus, in a similar way, a grant of citizenship in accordance with international law cannot be called natural born citizenship.

  2. Dear mister tatad,
    With a lot of disbelief I read your article, specially the part about the interpretation of the Constitution and International laws regarding the citizenship of foundlings.
    After reading the article I searched for more informations about the person callen Fernando Tatad.
    It turns out that you are not a lawyer and never in your life had you studied lwas at all.
    Yet you credit yourself to be a scholar in the art of interpretation of legal issues.
    Mr. Tatad, you had studied philosophy for a while but got yourself bared from the university.
    I don’t discredit what you have achieved in your life as a reporter and as an author.
    But it seems that your conservative stance is an impediment to view, analyse and critisize legal matters in an objective way.
    I wrote a lot about mrs Poe and the assumptions by her political rivals that she can’t be considered asa natural born filipina.
    The Commission on Elections decided that she is and it had motivated her decision on very good judicial grounds.
    Mind you that the constitution is just a frame-work and it delegates the elaboration of all the legal topics stated in the constitution to lawmakers to record and work them out in separate lwas.
    The Phils has signed or at least agreed to respect the action and consequences of several international treaties regarding the status of foundlings etc.
    Having a conservative stance means that it obstructs you to see the relation concewrning the various method of interpretation of leagal matters.
    Legal matters can’t only be interpreted litterally; there are so many other ways to interpret law depending of the context of the case, its circumstances and more specially the time setting.
    The Commission on Elections ruled within the sphere of the constitutions from the day Poe was found till now.
    The current constitution is not applicable simply because it wasn’t in vigor at the time Poe was found.

    I think mister Tatad that you did some good work with your essays, novels, articles etc. but yet it seems to me that as a reporter or analyst you are taking sides and you forgot the main rule : you have to have an open mind and be very objective.

    Second point I want to run by you is this question: why don’t you use your abilities and talents as a reporter and author to point out to the filipino in general that whatever political climate arises or continues in the Phils, is all to him to be blamed as a voter?
    The Phils is bent under the weight of corruption, graft and powerful individuals putting themselves above the law and it is accepted by the majority of the inhabitants of the Phils; they just shrug their shouldrs and moaned what can i do about it and I can’t change anything.
    Still they keep voting on popularism and keep all those illegal practices in place while they keep suffering day and night for the most of their lives.
    You mister tatad has to start a campaign with openmindedness to make the filipino aware of his own political power which is his right to vate and to vote critically.

    • You say: “I wrote a lot about mrs Poe and the assumptions by her political rivals that she can’t be considered asa natural born filipina.
      The Commission on Elections decided that she is and it had motivated her decision on very good judicial grounds”. This is wrong! Maybe you should read the decision again! COMELEC decided that Mrs. Llamanzares is not a natural-born Filipino, but had no intention to “mislead” concerning this matter. Thus, she was not disqualified on this ground, but rather on her residency status. Thank goodness, this decision has been brought forward by the petitioner Atty E. Elamparo for reconsideration by COMELEC. Mrs. Llamanzares should also be disqualified on the basis of her citizenship misrepresentation.

      Mr. Tatad may not be a lawyer, but he knows his English, and certainly his interpretation of the Constitution is as good, if not better than some of those people with law degrees. The Constitutional provisions that deal with citizenship and residency are not ambiguous, and should not be subject to different interpretations.

      The Philippines may have signed some international treaties, but they do not trump the Philippine Constitution. Maybe you need to educate yourself more about this matter. In fact, why not just read the dissenting opinions of the three Justice-members of SET re: the citizenship of Mrs. Llamanzares? In these opinions, you will learn a lot about the authority and influence of international treaties and conventions on the Philippine Constitution.

      Mr. Tatad is not a reporter. He is an “opinion” writer, and therefore, takes “sides” Do you know the difference between the two? It is also naive to think that an analyst can ever be “objective”. Name one or show me one and I’ll show you a liar.

      Saying that Mr Tatad was “bared” (sic) from university is so irrelevant that one starts questioning your motives. What are you trying to prove? Maybe Mr. Tatad’s readers should find out more about you? Who are you? Another fan of Mrs. Llamanzares?

      By the way, you need to watch your spelling and grammar as your points are not coming across clearly.

    • The game is over for Mrs. G. Poe Llamanzares. But she will continue her quest aided and abetted by her supporters and the donor class who “own and operate” her. In spite of her ineligibility, they hope that an EDSA-like force will catapult her to the no. 1 political position in the Philippines. Thank goodness, there are systems in place to make sure that this will not happen. “Ang batas ay ang batas”. If all citizens are subject to “ang batas”, why should she be exempted from “ang batas”?

  3. We have laws , laws to be followed. If common people can not digest the law, we have lawyers to interpret it in common language.
    Our constitution is for us alone. If it is silent on some subjects, then and there we refer to international laws.

  4. Walden Mendoza on

    I am the one of the supporter of Grace Poe wants to petition her candidacy! People spoken about her, They want Grace Poe to become a leader of the country because Grace Poe is responsible and not corrupt among the other candidates! And about her DQ case? That is ridiculous she showed a lot of evidences to prove that she is qualified but they ignored it! Be fair! Let her run! Go Sen Grace Poe!

  5. Let Senator Grace Poe ran for presidency. Stop using this line that she is violating the constitution if she allowed to run. This is a lot of Bullshit!! twice the constitution has been violated in placing a President as a leader. We have the so-called EDSA revolution which is actually a color-revolution perpetuated by Washington in their regime change agenda for Pres Marcos. Then we have again the EDSA 2 which saw the departure of Pres Estrada which is again initiated by Washington. Both of which is a clear violation of the Constitution but the those who were placed in power justifies it that it is clearly the will of the people and reasoned out the “Vox Populi Vox Dei” dictum. Worst, is that the two presidents that were ousted won the election and there was even an instance were the Supreme Court headed by its chief justice justifies that the former president has performed a “Constructive Resignation” which was concurred upon by a senior justice who said that he has spoken to the “Holy Spirit” and the president has to go. Now you see how these “Vested Interests” fooling us. They apply the full force of the law if they are benefitted but throws this very same law to the dustbin if it is to their disadvantage.
    I would say let Senator Grace Poe ran for Presidency, anyway “She looks very much a Pilipino, She talks very much a Pilipino, She acts very much a Pilipino” because for intents and purposes, SHE IS A PILIPINO!!! Lets level the playing field, give the Pilipino voters a set of choices. Don’t reason out this “Bullshit Constitution”.

  6. Ronito Ines Amigable on

    The Supreme Court will ultimately rule on both issues re lack of sufficient residency and not being a Philippines natural-born citizen; until then, there’s no finality. Both sides have validity and merits. My humble opinion is this: the spirit of the law will prevail because it gives life, meaning after all has been said and done, Grace Poe Llamanzares will tackle both. God bless us all.

  7. If we follow the line of thinking that Poe is qualified…but the husband and children are NOT Americans but Chinese citizens which we at present has pending issues regarding Spratly’s, or the husband and children are Malaysians which we at present are dealing with the BBL….will you still ignore her issues about being natural-born citizen and her residency?

  8. Poe is well love by the people let her run then let the people decide not PET or Judicial we need able leader with conscience.

  9. Francheska Ramos on

    There is no law in the land more supreme than the voice of the people. Let Senator Grace Poe run and let the voice of the sovereign people be heard.

  10. I cannot understand the ‘brilliant’ logic of Sixto Brilliantes – it just smacks of total stupidity and worse, it contradicts his name.

    • The logic there is Brillantes was just fishing for a good big fish client. Most of the circumstances money defies logic.

  11. Let Grace Poe run and the people will decide if shes good or not. Let the playing field be fair. The polical atmosphere in the phil is always full of negativity always discrediting the other candidate. its an atmosphere of lies after lies. Mr. Ex Senator, The more you write about against Grace Poe the more i am inclined to be for her and the more i am inclined not to believe on your writings….

  12. kaya pala hindi nagimbestiga si white hair nung nag file ng coc si llamanzares pagka senador kasi sa kanya wala sa poder ng comelec ang pag disqualify sa mga nag file ng coc. kaya heto tayo ngayon nagkakagulo gawa ng kapalpakan ni white hair at pagka manloloko o hindi alam ang batas na si llamanzares

  13. Mr. Tatad the real threat to our country today is the “loaded dice” PCOS machine and nothing else!

  14. Leodegardo Pruna on

    Chairman Bautista would definitely do the Philippines the best that could happen by committing to restore all security features of the machine so as to have a credible, honest, and transparent election. 2016 could also be the peak and lasting legacy which he would leave behind him. Let honor and truth prevail over money. The “SAGUISAG ng PANGANIBan” partners should better stop crying wolf and come to their senses to redeem themselves while there is still time. God bless the Philippines.

  15. I will still support Sen. Grace Poe. I believe all of these are just mere black propagandas to derail her candidacy. She is still the biggest threat among the Presidentiables and of course, everyone will do what they can to disqualify her to make it easier for them to win.

    • Propaganda? Let the documents speak. She was a senator produced by hocus-picos and not elected by the people.

    • Do you want a President who is not a true Filipino? I will not vote for her, its a waste of time. There a lot of other candidates that are good to run the country.

    • “biggest threat” – how do you know that? Isn’t that rather presumptuous? Surveys are nothing but manufactured figures created to bill stupid funders for more money. I just find it incredible that they would spend about P2B to P5B to win an undemocratic election when they can just spend about P2B to launch a coup d’tat if they just want power. Sa ganitong kahirapan, sigurado akong marami mag presenta sumali kapalit ng ilang kusing.

    • Ronaldo Valdes on

      Do you want a corrupt politician who will take all your tax money for their own benefit or you want an amarican who will give you a better goverment.. Why when she ran for senator nobody ask??? why

  16. I have been praying for Chairman Bautista to see the light and remember that his relationship to TRUTH, who is GOD, becomes paramount in his heart and mind.

    • Indeed. We Filipinos deserve the right to choose our leaders whom we think can make our country better. I hope Mr. Bautista doesn’t take that right away from us.

  17. Do not eliminate GRACE POE guys, she
    will be the one to be the next commander i n chief .The masa loves her
    .the anointed one has poor rapport with the poor people .His name sticks
    as well as his job records.All he cares is his ambitions and his
    elitist friends and families.And by the way no way Jose to Dudirty THE
    BERDUGO ng Davao City ,we do not want the second coming of Martial Law
    ,he is the next dictator of the Philippines..We will not support the
    corrupt Binay AND sickly Miriam.

  18. But while Aquino is still the president, he can disburse public funds without accounting for them, that may provide incentive for Comelec officials to act on items as the president view them. This is not to say that the Comelec can be bought. But it is a possibility in the same way that anything is possible.

  19. Majority of the people are not concerned about Grace Poe’s cases before the Comelec and the general feeling is that only those people that expect to benefit from a Binay presidency are interested. Binay operatives can make all imaginary or real arguments before the Comelec but at the end of the day, the real reasons behind all these is Binay’s attempt to have all corruption charges against him forgotten during the campaign.

    Nuisance candidates are not necessarily unqualified candidates under the law, that is not even a valid legal or personal opinion argument. There are ways nuisance candidates can be totally prevented from exercising their nonsense ego tripping without necessarily legally preventing them from exercising their rights: Require them to post a 1 million peso nonrefundable money to be used by Comelec to pay for the extra election votes count and time or increase their nonrefundable filing fee.

  20. You said the constitution is so clear that it can never be legitimately interpreted in Poe’s favor but the 5 senators in SET interpreted the constitution in her way. What will happen to them. Will they be “hang like Judas and be hounded all their lives, possibly even after they are gone”?

    • We make sure that they are not to be reelected anymore. They disregarded the constitution by just saving the skin of their colleague.

    • Let them deal with their own conscience if they did the right thing or not. But then politicians basically are not that onion skinned like the majority of us myself included.

    • Llamanzares should abide the by the requirements of the constitution. I don’t know why most Filipinos always find ways to make the wrong, correct. Llamanzares just wanted everything in her favor upon the advice of “balimbing” Escudero. If ever the SC will decide in Llamanzares favor, then let her use Llamanzares instead of Poe. Our elections are purely a popularity contest that Llamanzares wanted to use FPJs name to win surveys. I doubt is Llamanzares will win the election by using Llamanzares. Llamanzares should and must stop her ambition. She’s not done anything remarkable in senate yet. Evcen her experience as a pre-school nanny is not enough to be president.